INTERVIEW-Maxwell House coffee to go 100 pct arabica

Mon Jul 23, 2007 4:34pm EDT

By Marcy Nicholson

NEW YORK, July 23 (Reuters) - Kraft Foods Inc. KFT.N is changing the blend of its flagship coffee brand, Maxwell House, to give "mainstream America" a richer, less bitter cup of coffee, a spokesman said on Monday. Maxwell House, Kraft's biggest coffee brand in the United States, will be made of 100 percent arabica beans starting this autumn, with the exception of its instant coffee and Master Blend, Kraft's senior vice-president and general manager of coffee in North America, John LeBoutillier, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"She may not know arabica by name, but this is a flavor that has a pronounced impact," LeBoutillier said about the average consumer.

The coffee is currently a blend of arabica beans, typically used in brewed coffee, and robusta, used to make instant coffee and as a less expensive blending option for brewed java.

Maxwell House canisters of 100 percent arabica blends will be on store shelves across Canada and the United States by the end of the year, he said.

The move is neither an effort to challenge premium coffees nor in response to the hike in robusta futures prices to a recent nine-year peak, LeBoutillier said.

"We're trying to deliver the very best, what we're calling mainstream, cup of coffee that we can," he said. "This coffee is formulated to deliver a rich coffee flavor with less or no bitterness within the taste profile that our mainstream coffee consumers enjoy."

Although arabica beans are generally more expensive than robusta, LeBoutillier said the price will not change. The average one-pound canister of original Maxwell House in the United States $2.89, the company said.

Coffee is a growing industry. The International Coffee Organization has said it expects global demand for coffee to continue rising at 1.5 to 2 percent a year.

Kraft, the largest packaged food company in North America, makes other coffee brands including Yuban.

In October 2006, Kraft and other major U.S. roasters raised suggested retail prices for some products including Maxwell House, citing gains of 70 percent in green robusta prices over the previous year. Three months later, the roasters hiked some prices again, but this time citing increased arabica coffee prices.

((Reporting by Marcy Nicholson, editing by Matthew Lewis; New York Commodity desk; e-mail: marcy.nicholson@reuters.com; Reuters Messaging: marcy.nicholson.reuters.com@reuters.net; +1 646 223 6043)) Keywords: COFFEE KRAFT/ARABICA

(C) Reuters 2007. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution ofReuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expresslyprohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuterssphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group ofcompanies around the world.nN23565929